Courtney Gillen, 2nd grade teacher
United West Elementary School in Monmouth, IL
Hi there! My name is Courtney Gillen. I am twenty-eight years old and currently teaching second grade at United West Elementary outside the rural community of Monmouth, Illinois. After graduating high school I was recruited to play basketball and soccer at Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg where I was not quite sure what I intended to do with my life. Two years went by quickly and my young ambition led me all the way to Eagan, Minnesota where I enrolled at The Travel Academy to pursue a career in the travel industry. From there I obtained a position as a Travel Consultant with the NCAA at Shorts Travel in Waterloo, Iowa, but still something did not feel right. I felt as if my calling was pulling me in a different direction, and what I had to offer the world was far beyond the walls of a cubicle.
I have always had a passion for helping others and working with children, but it wasn’t until I became a Paraprofessional working in a Special Education classroom in a small, rural community that I felt my true calling toward teaching. While sitting on the classroom floor reading with a student living with autism, it was at that moment I realized why God had led me there. It was in this space where my heart’s deepest gladness had met the world’s deepest hunger.
Teachers are no longer just educators, we are counselors, nurses, parents, protectors, and nurturers, advocating and fighting for a better tomorrow for our children. My calling has led me to education because I have the strength, dedication, and passion to make a difference. It is easy to stand in front of a classroom and lecture out of a book, but it takes someone with true heart and determination to see the potential in a student and stop at nothing to help them achieve their dreams. That someone is me.
I believe the strength and heart of a rural community comes from the school and the teachers found within. My goal as an educator is to continue my involvement in the community and provide my students with opportunities to engage their surroundings through place based education. My mission is to cultivate the potential in every student to thrive as a global citizen by inspiring a love of learning and civic engagement, by challenging and supporting every student to achieve academic excellence, and by embracing the full richness and diversity my rural community has to offer.
The Young Educators' Advisory Council is an initiative for early career rural teachers. These young educators will serve RSC as advisors to strengthen our mission in the recruitment, preparation, and retention of rural teachers. YEA council members will serve for two years engaging in online conversations.